Five simple steps to write your first resume

Five simple steps to write your first resume

Whether you’re applying for a work placement, apprenticeship or an after-school job at your local fish and chip shop, here’s how to get your CV on point when you’re starting out.


When you’re searching or applying for your first job, putting together your resume can be daunting. You might find yourself staring at a blank document and wondering how on earth you will fill it.

But don’t worry, Chisholm Institute of TAFE Careers Education Coordinator Katharine Beech has some tips to help you put together an impressive resume that will help you launch your working life.

Here’s how to get your CV right for your first job:

1. Identify the purpose of your resume

Ultimately, what you want your resume to do is communicate to employers who you are and why you will make a great employee.

Usually this involves listing your name and contact details, education, work and volunteering experience and references.

But different types of employers will be looking for employees with different skills, so it’s a good idea to decide the purpose of your resume first before you get started. This will influence which experiences and skills you include.

“If you’re going for a work placement in a hospital, that’s a totally different skillset compared to applying for your first job at the fish and chip shop to get cash to keep studying,” Katharine says.

“For your health work you might focus on your hygiene stands, understanding of regulations, assignments or projects you’ve done at school. “For the fish and chip shop you would highlight any customer service you’ve done, such as if you’ve helped out in the canteen at your sports club.”

2. Find a resume template

According to Katharine there’s no better place to start than with a template. She recommends finding one on the Australian Government’s My Future website which has a range of template options for download based on where you’re at in your career, whether you’re still at school or looking for a graduate role.

“You can choose a strong template whether you’re a graduate, or an early school leaver, or if you need a work placement,” she says.

3. Identify your relevant skills and life experience

You may not have had a job before but that doesn’t mean you don’t have lots of great skills and experiences which employers will value.

The key is identifying which of your skills and experiences match what you need for the job you want. You’ll need to emphasise these skills in your cover letter as well.

“If you’re going for a caring role, you might want to highlight caring you’ve done within your family or babysitting jobs, or peer support at high school,” Katharine says.

“From a trade perspective, it’s not just any labouring experience or your physical skills, employers would also be looking for teamwork skills. “If you’ve been in a footy team or sporting club, you could highlight how you did the score work or were a captain.”

If you feel you need some more experience to add to your resume, you could start to look around for opportunities to gain experience in your community.

“Initiative is a really great skill and if you can use your initiative to help others it will look great on your resume,” Katharine says.

Look for opportunities to help out or join in wherever you can, whether that’s in a community group, club or by taking part in school activities.

4. Choose your referees

It’s generally a good idea to include one or two referees on your resume, although they are usually not contacted by employers until later in the recruitment process.

Katharine says these should be people who are able to talk about your skills and experience.

“It might be a teacher you get along well with, someone from the sporting club you’re part of or a friend who owns a business you’ve helped at,” she says.

“Sometimes people don’t realise when they’re helping out that they’re building networks.”

Always check with the referee first to make sure they’re happy to be contacted by employers. Let them know about the type of jobs you’re applying for and provide them with a copy of your resume so they’re familiar with your skills and experiences.

If you have an interview and think your referee is likely to be contacted, let them know so they can be prepared and ready for a call.

5. Seek support

If you’ve gone through all the steps and you’re still not feeling confident about your resume, Katharine suggests asking for support from a teacher, careers counsellor, pathways officer or someone who works in the industry you’re trying to break into.

Remember, employers aren’t necessarily looking for people with lots of work experience up their sleeve.

“There’s the idea that someone who is new and fresh doesn’t have bad habits,” Katharine says. “A lot of employers are looking for enthusiastic young people who they can mould into the type of worker they’d like.”